So you want to get fit? Don't forget the humble skipping rope. It's cheap, it's portable and can fit into your briefcase.

Quick: name an exercise that builds coordination and cardiovascular fitness, can be done in your lounge at home, and fits into the side pocket of your laptop computer bag.

Stumped? Try the humble skipping rope. There's a good reason that boxers do it – it’s a really useful exercise that, if done at a decent pace, will get the heart pumping and the sweat flowing.

You can also combine skipping with your cardio-and-weights workout to burn kilojoules, alternating push-ups, skipping and circuits.

But what if you're all thumbs and trip over the rope each time you try? Never fear. Here's a good way to get past that embarrassing, ungainly beginner's stage.

• Start by getting yourself an adjustable skipping rope. To get the length right, hold a looped skipping rope and stand on it with one foot; then pull up. The handles should reach no higher than your lower chest and you'll find that, as your skipping improves, you can shorten the rope even more.

• To develop the rhythm you'll need for skipping, try jumping on the spot for five minutes each day. Your height is less important here than is consistency, as you'll be jumping no more than about an inch off the ground, once you're an adroit skipper. With any luck, just jumping on the spot will give your heart and lungs a bit of a workout.

• Hold a length of looped rope in one hand as you jump and swing it so that the sound of the rope brushing the floor coincides with your feet being off the ground, just as it would when you're skipping.

• Once this rhythm comes to you easily, you're ready to start skipping properly. You should be able to hold the handle of the rope in each hand like a racquet or a hosepipe and hop over it easily as it swings towards your feet. Unless you're a flagrant show-off, there's little to be gained in crossing the rope. Rather concentrate on building up your speed, which will improve naturally as you jump. Consider yourself an expert skipper if you can make around 230 jumps per minute. Start by jumping with both feet together; then graduate to alternating your feet.

While you're working on becoming an ace hopper, check your posture:

• Look straight ahead with your head level and your neck relaxed. Check that your shoulders aren't tense. Stand up straight and relax.

• Keep your elbows tucked into your body and bent, as though you were starting a curl with a dumbbell.

• Keep your wrists relaxed and loose. The movement of the rope will come from your wrists, so you won't need to swing your arms. Your hands should be more or less level with your hips, with your palms facing forwards.

• Keep your knees and feet loose. You'll maintain the momentum you need to skip quickly if you land and take offon the balls of your feet.

Image via Thinkstock.

Read more about fitness:

>> Obsessed with high-intensity interval training?

>> How to start swimming for exercise

>> Build a fitness training routine